One of the leading campaigners who helped secure nearly £50million government funding for Melton’s long -awaited bypass has set a target for the road to be opened – May 23, 2022.
County and borough councillor Byron Rhodes, who has been celebrating confirmation of government investment in the scheme, told the Melton Times: “That will be my 80th birthday and I want to be able to drive down the road that day.”
That prospect moved a giant step closer last week following the announcement by the Department of Transport that it was prepared to help fund the so-called £63.5million Melton Mowbray Distributor Road (MMDR).
Planning applications for the preferred route, which will link the A606 Nottingham Road to the A606 Burton Road to the east of the town, are expected to be submitted to County Hall within two months.
If all goes to plan, work could start on building the road as early as the spring of 2020.
“It was just wonderful news when I heard we had got the funding,” said Councillor Rhodes, who is deputy leader at County Hall.
“The next generations are going to be living in a town which is very different after this road is built and traffic is taken around the town rather than through it.
“It should lead to town centre regeneration, particularly somewhere like Leicester Street, which is now just a one-way rat run where hardly anyone wants to walk along and where businesses have declined.”
Plans are also advanced for a £20million southern relief road to link in with the MMDR by connecting the A606 Burton Road with the A607 Leicester Road.
The county council is to bid for a contribution from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund with the majority of the funding to be paid by developers planning to build around 2,000 new homes to the south of Melton.
It is hoped that the southern relief road will be built at the same time as the MMDR although there are no current plans for a western link to complete a total bypass around the town.
Councillor Rhodes said the building of the Norman Way relief road in the 1970s and the reconfigured Wilton Road junction 10 years ago have helped with congestion.
But he insisted the MMDR and the southern link was the only way to solve the north-south traffic bottlenecks in Melton.
It is likely to be completed shortly after Councillor Rhodes ends his 40-year career in local government – he intends to step down from the borough council next year and county council in 2021 when the next elections are held.
He added: “It was first mooted 40 years ago but I always thought that if we stuck at it then eventually we would get it.”
The £14million shortfall in funding for the MMDR will come from joint-contributions from County Hall, Melton Council and developers.
Borough council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, said he was ‘delighted’ by the confirmation of government funding.
He said: “We have listened to residents and undertaken various studies, in partnership with Leicestershire County Council, which I am really pleased to say has finally paid off.
“It has been a long journey to get to this stage but this is a key milestone for the project which will greatly improve the traffic concerns in the town as well as develop the infrastructure to support our plans for growth and development in Melton Mowbray.”
The MMDR is a key component of the draft Melton Local Plan, currently the subject of a public consultation following an Inspector’s examination, which provides for 4,500 new homes around the town and 6,000 new jobs up to 2036.
Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan said he feared that the ups and downs of the national economy and changes in government meant that a bypass would never be built around Melton.
He believes the relief road will boost not only the economy of the borough but the whole of the east Leicestershire region.
“Put simply, Melton will be able to breathe again – perhaps in all senses,” Sir Alan told the Melton Times.
“There is no point in a big lorry having to go through the middle of Melton when all it is trying to do is travel north to south or east to west.
“In a few years, they will all be able to go around the town and keep moving.”
The only misgiving Sir Alan has about the scheme is the proposed 40mph speed limit, which he thinks should be increased.
He said: “Work should start in 2020. We know the route, we’ve got the plans, but there are some legal hoops to go through as well.
“The work schedule had been compressed to the shortest timescale possible. Now the money is there I hope everyone can race ahead without delay.”
During his stint as local MP for more than a quarter of a century, he said a town bypass had been a key topic of discussion.
“It was obvious 25 years ago that Melton was going to need a bypass,” added Sir Alan.
“Every Friday on market day there was a traffic jam and although the junction improvement scheme at Norman Way has helped a bit, traffic was beginning to kill the town and drive people away.
“So I have been pressing for this for over 20 years. I got one for Oakham and now we’re going to get one for Melton.”
What the relief road will involve?
Route: A link to the east of Melton from the A606 Burton Road,
crossing Saxby Road, Thorpe Road and Melton Spinney Road to join
the A607 Nottingham Road, opposite St Barthoemew’s Way.
Length of road: 7km, single carriageway.
Bridges: Over the River Eye and the railway line.
Other features: There will be in-built measures for walkers and
cyclists to use the new route safely.
Timeline on Melton bypass scheme:
May 2018: £49.5million government funding announced
July 2018: Planning applications for preferred route to be submitted
to Leicestershire County Council.
Spring 2020: Work could start if planning permission is approved.
May 2022: New bypass roads to the east and the south could be
opened to traffic.